Money Can’t Buy Love, But the Right Gift Can


Jamie C. WilliamsonBy Jamie C. Williamson, PhD

Most gift givers assume that a more expensive present will be more appreciated, yet receivers don’t appreciate expensive gifts more than other less expensive gifts. And, that goes for gifts of clothes, wine, home décor, jewelry, and even the price of an engagement ring.

Research clearly shows that money can’t buy you love. Instead, when it comes to gift giving, it truly is the thought (and effort) that counts.

Close Up Shot Of Female Hands Holding A Small GiftSo, how do you select the “right” gift?
Selecting the right gift begins with the understanding that the gift you give – no matter the cost – communicates how you feel about the receiver and the relationship you share. If you want your partner to receive a message of love, appreciation, admiration, and commitment, then you need a gift that makes that statement.

A good gift is tailored to the needs and desires of the receiver and communicates commitment to the relationship.

But the best gifts do all of that and more. The best gifts also reflect effort and high levels of involvement.

It truly is the thought and effort that counts.
For example, if your husband dreams of owning a sailboat and you can’t afford it, don’t buy him a toolbox or new pair of running shoes. Show him you want his dreams to come true. Buy him a sailboat (and captain) for a day. Arrange with his boss for a day off, schedule childcare, buy him a pair of deck shoes. Then, the two of you go for a day of sailing. If that is too much, buy him a subscription for Sailing magazine, open a special “sailing” savings account, and start saving for next year’s rental or even boat ownership. Just let him know his dream is your dream, too.

Or if your wife is a busy mother who longs for the romance and excitement of your early marriage but barely has time to blow dry her hair, don’t buy her a gold bracelet or the truly forbidden food processor (unless it comes with a cooking class in Italy). If she longs to feel passionate again, show her she is still the woman you married. Buy her a day of luxury and romance.

Do all the planning. Book her into a resort spa, arrange for her to have a day off, arrange childcare, schedule her a massage, mani-pedi, facial, and blow-out (or whichever services you can afford). Give her a new sexy top to wear, and end with an overnight “date night” at the resort. If that’s too much, then give her the mani-pedi, send the kids to grandma’s, and prepare a romantic dinner at home. Just let her know for sure that, to you, she’s not just a mom, she’s the love of your life.

Here’s a less extravagant example. Last year around Thanksgiving, my husband broke his favorite reading glasses. I could have easily ordered him a new pair of readers. But, I knew they wouldn’t be the same. So, I found an optometrist office willing to repair the old ones, wrapped the repaired glasses in tissue, and put them in his Christmas stocking.

Getting the glasses repaired was tailored to my husband’s needs and the effort showed my commitment to him and our relationship. The effort also showed a high level of involvement (I had to do a lot of running around rather than just order something on-line).
Although my husband received other more expensive gifts last year. The repaired readers were his favorite because they communicated to him the lengths I would go to make him happy. In turn, he was happy with me.

Love is, after all, an action word.
Try sharing this article with your partner to start a discussion about what you both might want most for yourselves and your relationship this year. Acknowledge that the best gifts are tailored to the receiver’s unique needs and desires, reflect effort and involvement on your part, and demonstrate your commitment to the person and the relationship you share. Then shop creatively so you have the best (and perhaps, least expensive) Christmas ever.
Want to give your partner a private and fun marriage refresher course? Contact me and I’ll set it up for you.

Jamie C. Williamson, PhD is a FL Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator and Gottman Methods Couples Counselor. She is an owner and partner at Amity Mediation Workshop, LLC, a mediation practice specializing in “friendly divorce” mediation and marriage revitalization sessions for couples. Dr. Jamie speaks frequently on relationship topics and authors the blog “Work it Out.” You can find her online at